What questions should you ask when hiring a handyman?

A customer stood next to a handyman in her home, explaining the jobs she would like him to do.

When we have a job that needs doing, either at home or in the office, it’s normal to think of how we can get those jobs done with the minimum of fuss and expense.

Many people will turn to a local handyman – usually someone they know or have been recommended – to have the work done. But how can we be sure the work they do will last? Can we be sure the work is covered in case something goes wrong? Can we trust the handyman not to damage property or cause an accident?

These are just a few of the concerns that maybe we should ask ourselves before we employ the services of any trades professional.

We’ve looked at this situation and have compiled a list of questions that you, the client, could consider asking before you employ a handyman to complete your manual projects for you. You don’t need to ask all of these questions every time you need work doing, but asking some could help you identify who is actually capable of competing the work satisfactorily.

Questions to ask a handyman before hiring them could include:

1. What type of work can you do?

Why ask this? If you’ve found a range of handyman services online or via a local advertisement, then they will likely have listed their services. However, when you ask this question they should be able to elaborate on their services list and potentially include some skills that they didn’t list due to lack of space on their advert.

2. Do you have experience performing the work I'm looking for?

Why ask this? If the answer is “Yes”, then you can ask for examples. If “No”, then you can make the decision to look elsewhere for someone who can do the job.

3. Do you have local references and photos of your previous work?

Why ask this? Positive reviews and real world examples of successfully completed jobs are valuable to all forms of business. For a self-employed tradesperson, they can be the difference between winning new work and losing it to a competitor. If the handyman has reviews and photos to show, then that can not only prove they can do the work to a high standard, but also that they take pride in what they do.

4. Are you licenced and insured?

Why ask this? A licence from a trade association can add credibility to a tradesperson’s offering. Typically, anyone who is part of a trades association agrees to conform to the association’s codes of conduct and standards.

It should be a priority for a self-employed tradesperson to be insured in case something goes wrong. At the least, a handyman should carry public liability insurance to protect their clients, their clients’ property, and members of the public. They may also say that they have personal accident insurance and tools insurance.

5. Are you qualified to undertake the work I am looking to have done?

Why ask this? In theory, anyone can become a handyman and do odd jobs and put up shelves. This is why being qualified can mean the difference between a quality job and a ‘botched attempt’ that could cost you more money later to rectify any mistakes. If you are looking to have electrical work done as part of your jobs list, then you should ask for proof that the handyman is qualified to do that sort of work.

6. How much will this cost for both labour and materials?

Why ask this? If you are working to a budget, then you’ll want to know exactly what a job will cost to complete. Get a quote in writing. A good rule of thumb is ‘Get Three Quotes’, so you can compare costs. If the quotes are far apart, then you should ask for more until you are happy. If the three quotes are similar, then you could feel relieved to the point that you could appoint someone to do the work.

7. How do you price your work?

Why ask this? Not all tradespeople will be willing to divulge this information, as it can indicate what their mark-up is. However, you can at least ask for a set rate for the job or if the handyman prices based on hours on the job. If they price based on hours on the job, you might wish to get another quote as a slow yet thorough worker could cost more.

8. How do you invoice for your work? Deposit then balance on completion?

Why ask this? This is quite important, and is an opportunity to negotiate the job on your terms. If a handymen asks for payment up front, then you should look elsewhere, as this removes your leverage as the client. A good resolution for both parties is a deposit, followed by either staged payments if the job is large and requires outlay on materials, or deposit then final payment once the job is completed and you are happy with it.

9. Do you take cash, accept card payments, or bank transfers?

Why ask this? If a handyman asks for cash, then you could get the job done cheaper. However, you would have little security if they took your money and left before they had finished the job.

Card payments can be more expensive – usually due to card payment fees and an indication that the tradesperson could be operating as a Limited company and even VAT registered – but they can provide security.

Payment by card can add a layer of security if a fraudulent act takes place. In some cases, a criminal investigation can be opened, and you could get your money back as a result. It is important to check this with your card issuer to ensure you know exactly where you stand.

10. Will you provide me with an itemised receipt?

Why ask this? If you want to see where your money has been spent, then feel free to ask for an itemised receipt. This may be essential if you are a business owner.

11. When will you be able to do the work?

Why ask this? If the job is pressing, such as an electrical fault, or an unsafe wall, then you’ll want the repairs doing as soon as possible. Many tradespeople are very busy, so this may not be an option for many people that you ask to quote for your work.

12. How long will it take to complete the work?

Why ask this? This is important so you know how long there will be disruption, either in your home or in your office. You can also hold the handyman to account if the job runs over the estimated time for completion, especially if the job is priced based on an hourly rate.

13. Do you have a written contract?

Why ask this? A contract can be important for both parties. It ties you both to a project and enables you to both know where you stand from the outset. If there is a dispute along the way, then a contract can be called upon to help verify the details agreed between the client and the handyman/ tradesperson.

14. Do you provide a guarantee?

Why ask this? It’s unlikely that a handyman will offer a guarantee, but it is important to be aware that if you both enter into a contract, then the tradesperson that you hire can be held liable for defects for up to 6 years after the project is completed, as per the rules set out in the Limitation Act of 1980.

In many cases it is common to agree to work on a 12-month liability agreement, in that the tradesperson will return to rectify an issue within 12 months of the completion of a job.

15. How do you maintain a safe working environment for yourself and for those around you?

Why ask this? This is a question that is seldom thought of, but it’s important to know if the person you’re hiring is neat and tidy, and show consideration to those around them. If not, then they could be creating an unnecessarily hazardous environment.

16. How will you communicate with me about the work?

Why ask this? Good communication is at the heart of everything successful. It’s important to know if more materials are required and what for, and what they are going to cost. It’s important to know the handyman’s working hours, and when they take lunch.

17. What are your working hours?

Why ask this? You’ll likely need to know when you need to be at home to give the handyman access, so knowing their working hours will be important.

18. Do you work on your own?

Why ask this? If someone works on their own, you can expect the job to take longer than if the professional you hire has employees to help them.

19. If a client was not happy with your work, how would you handle the situation?

Why ask this? As the client, you need to know that any snags will be rectified without any fuss and without extra charge.

20. How would you handle the situation if your customer started asking for more work than was originally agreed?

Why ask this? Many jobs can lead to others. It’s important to know where you both stand from the outset, so you can negotiate extra work if it is required.

21. What makes you stand out from other handymen?

Why ask this? Everyone should have a unique selling point (USP), that one selling point that can seal the deal. A handyman may not be aware this, but they should at least be able to say that they are trustworthy and will do a quality job for you. If they are dismissive of this type of question, it can be an indication that they don’t really care, which could mean a sub-standard finish.

These questions are not the be all and end all, but they might give you an idea of the questions to ask when hiring a handyman to give you peace of mind that your job will be completed efficiently, safely, and within budget.

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